Root Canal vs Tooth Extraction: Which Is Better?

As a leading dentist in Wellington, the team here at Victoria Street Dental often helps patients find the best course of action for their issues. A question we help answer often is whether to opt for a tooth extraction or try to save the damaged tooth with a root canal treatment.

When you’re put in a position where you need to choose one of these procedures, the best possible thing you can do is find out as much as you can about them. Making a good decision depends on how much information you have, so today we’re looking at the differences between these options. Read on to find out more!

What is a root canal?

First, let’s cover the basics. A root canal is a dental procedure designed to extract the nerve endings from inside a tooth. This becomes necessary when a nerve is infected or damaged, which can happen through trauma after suffering an injury to the mouth or gradual tooth decay. Gradual and untreated decay can lead to cavities, and if a cavity worsens to the point where it reaches a nerve, the nerve ending can become compromised and infected.

In either case, a nerve exposed by either a crack or cavity can be painful, may hurt in response to pressure or temperature, and at its worse, causes terrible headaches and discomfort. Exposed nerves can swell too, which may be noticeable as swelling on your face.

Why choose a root canal?

Natural teeth are so good at their job that it’s generally considered a good idea to keep them whenever possible. Even if the nerve must be removed, there’s a chance the tooth can still do what it needs to do. Furthermore, keeping teeth in their place is ideal as this prevents neighbouring teeth from moving into the gap left by an extraction.

Medical conditions can also invalidate extractions. If you are taking blood thinners or your bone structure is undergoing treatment, extraction may be deemed unsafe.

All these benefits listed above make canal treatments very attractive, but they only suit specific circumstances. For example, root canals work best on easy to access teeth, like those you can see when you smile. It’s also important to have proper bone and gum support around the teeth. If the trauma which damaged the tooth has also loosened it, a root canal may not be your best option.

What can I expect from a root canal?

Many patients expect root canals to be long and painful. Frankly, this is because when root canals first became an option, they were long and painful.

These days things are much different. The name of the operation has become associated with the way things used to be, but we’re happy to inform patients that dentistry has advanced to the point where a root canal treatment is much faster and much less difficult than it used to be. Local anaesthetic is applied to the area, so you won’t feel much of anything beyond the first few seconds of the procedure.

When is extraction the better option?

If you have a tooth that’s been damaged too much to be saved, extraction is likely the better option. Root canals are also not suitable for teeth that are further back in the mouth.

Some patients ask whether or not extraction involves fewer appointments, as a root canal sometimes needs to be carried out over multiple visits. The answer depends on your teeth – there are so many variables involved that there’s no single best option. After all, tooth extraction may also need to be carried out over two or three appointments, especially if the patient wants to replace the tooth with a dental implant.

What is an extraction like?

Extraction has also come a long way in dentistry. With modern anaesthetic, you shouldn’t feel any pain at all. Throughout the procedure, dentists check to make sure you are comfortable multiple times.

There are some guidelines for post-operation care, including eating on the opposite side of your mouth, making sure you don’t eat foods that are too hot and too hard, and resting as much as possible.

Still need help deciding?

If you’re still unsure which option is best for you, talk to the team here at Victoria Street Dental or book an appointment online. The best course of action is to let the professionals take a look at your circumstances – after all, every set of teeth is different!